Laugh-O-Gram Studio was a film studio located on the second floor of the McConahay Building at 1127 East 31st in Kansas City, Missouri.
The studio played a role in the early years of animation: it was home to many of the pioneers of animation, brought there by Walt Disney, and is said to be the place to have provided Disney with the inspiration to create Mickey Mouse.
The studio building has fallen to ruin and efforts are being made to restore it by a non-profit group called "Thank You Walt Disney.". The Disney family has promised $450,000 in matching funds for the restoration. The exterior was restored and the building stabilized in 2009. Thank You Walt Disney is currently working to raise money to put a museum inside.
On May 23, 1922 Walt Disney with Ub Iwerks took the remaining assest from the defunct Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists and along with $15,000 raised from local investors merged them with Laugh-O-Grams. With the help of Frank Newmann, Disney signed a deal with Milton Feld to produce a 1 minute reel per week featuring local news and public-service curtain raisers. During this time Disney created an animated character called Professor Whosis who came on the screen in between public announcements to tell jokes to the audience. Professor Whosis proved so popular that Disney was soon asked to double his output to 2 weekly 1 minute reels. The succes of these 1 minute reels persuaded Ub Iwerks to quit his own job at the Kansas City Film Ad Company and join his old friend Disney at Laugh-O-Grams. They obtained a staff of animators by placing an ad in a local paper offering lessons to anyone wanting to learn the animation business. With everything in place they quickly set about produing their first "real" animated film. For their first film Disney chose to adapt "Little Red Riding Hood", as it was a story that was frequently read to him by his mother as a child. He filmed it using a single hand cranked camera. The film was of sufficient quality that Frank Newman was able to convince local investors to invest $15,000 in shares of Laugh-O-Grams. The money used to produce his follow up film"Puss in Boots". (A Brothers Grimm fairytail). Meanwhile Milton Felt sent out copies of Little Red Riding hood to all the national distributors, wich all turned him down. It was a relatively small and unknown none-theatrical company Pictoral Clubs, that offered $11,000 for six completed shorts. However Disney only received a $100 down payment befor Pictoral Clubs went bankrupt.
Among his employees were several pioneers of animation: Ub Iwerks, Hugh Harman, Rudolf Ising, Carmen Maxwell, and Friz Freleng.
The company had problems making ends meet: by the end of 1922, Disney was living in the office, taking baths once a week at Union Station.
After creating one last short, the live-action/animation Alice Comedies, the studio declared bankruptcy in July 1923. Disney then moved to Hollywood, California. Disney sold his movie camera, earning enough money for a one-way train ticket; he brought along an unfinished reel of Alice's Wonderland.
Inspiration for Mickey Mouse
Disney told interviewers later that he was inspired to draw Mickey by a tame mouse at his desk at Laugh-O-Gram Studio in Kansas City, Missouri. They used to fight for crumbs in my waste-basket when I worked alone late at night. I lifted them out and kept them in wire cages on my desk. I grew particularly fond of one brown house mouse. He was a timid little guy. By tapping him on the nose with my pencil, I trained him to run inside a black circle I drew on my drawing board. When I left Kansas to try my luck at Hollywood, I hated to leave him behind. So I carefully carried him to a backyard, making sure it was a nice neighborhood, and the tame little fellow scampered to freedom. In 1928 during a train trip to New York he showed the drawing to his wife Lillian Marie Bounds and said he was going to call it "Mortimer Mouse." She replied that the name sounded "too sissified" and suggested Mickey Mouse instead.
- ↑ Thank You Walt Disney, a website about the studio and the drive to have it restored
- ↑ Entry for Tommy Tucker's Tooth from The Encyclopedia of Disney Animated Shorts, the detailed personal website of a Rhode Island-based fan of the films
- ↑ Tommy Tucker's Tooth at the Internet Movie Database
- ↑ Capturing the Disney Magic Every Day of Your Life by Pat Williams ISBN 0-7573-0231-9
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Walt Disney: Conversations (Conversations With Comic Artists Series) by Kathy Merlock Jackson with Walt Disney " ISBN 1-57806-713-8 page 120